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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fighting Debt in the Kitchen: The Pantry Purge Challenge

How many of us have debt? How many of us really want to get rid of it? How many of us have said that for years? Well, I am tired of saying that for years. We have gone in and out of it. Personally, I have decided I want to GET OUT and STAY out of it, which requires mindset changes and habit changes. So what does debt have to do with the kitchen? This is the first post in a series on eliminating debt by changing our kitchen habits or lack thereof.

Last year my husband came home from a seminar we would recommend for anyone (look up Dani Johnson  as seen on the show Secret Millionaire) and said we should only keep enough food for one week in our home. I totally resisted as I couldn't wrap my mind around it. If you know me, you can imagine! Suffice it to say we think it makes sense to have food for emergencies, but separate from our every day stash. (Southern California might not be known for hurricanes but the area was certainly unprepared for the huge power outage we all had. Some of my nearby friends did not even have clean water!) We also agreed that being that we attempt to eat as much real food as possible it would behoove us to purchase a yearly grass fed cow each year that we can. I still brought up one more exception- we have housed and fed at LEAST a couple hundred guests over our 7 years of marriage. It also is not unheard of that I have 4 to 10 people to feed on two hour's notice. So for our family, these three clauses are important to us. In addition to purchasing what we need for the week we will:

1. Have emergency food that we leave alone.
2. Purchase a small amount of bulk items when necessary (such as a cow, gallons of coconut oil).
3. Maintain a small stock of home prepared foods in the freezer for unexpected guests or needed "fast food" meals.

Here are today's pantry/freezer purge meals, via my cell phone. I didn't have time to pull out my nice camera:

Root veggie cobbler is pictured above. Click here for the original recipe from Kimi Harris of 
The Nourishing Gourmet. She has published a salad recipe book I think you might enjoy!.
I have altered this recipe to make it my own but I usually do bake it. 
However, today I decided to take the leap and use the crock pot. I will add the biscuit topping and 
peas an hour before we eat so it is all ready at the same time. I had frozen this a few months ago.

This half frozen lump is about a gallon of spaghetti squash leftover from our garden two years ago.
I literally gave away hundreds of pounds of this stuff. It was practically coming out of my ears! 
This remainder is destined to become a pot of warm soup to go with our cobbler.
In case you are now wondering how this is fighting debt, read on. I have gradually come to some conclusions about why this is beneficial. Last week, I emptied my pantry of $53 worth of stuff I really didn't need and used that to purchase items I did need that week- raw milk, diapers and fresh but basic organic produce for the week. I got rid of an extra bottle of cod liver oil, a duplicate bottle of elderberry syrup I had bought when I accidentally thought we were out, a baby soap bar I hadn't opened and some random canned goods.That made $53 cash appear out of thin air. I have also recently started thinking, how much is this extra can of green beans, this extra 10 pound bag of frozen veggies that I do NOT need to consume this week, or this dessert item costing me? Why would I say costing me? Because I finally got it. I realized that when I bought that extra bag or can I don't need right now, or the 4th can of pumpkin puree that has been sitting in my cupboard for two months or more, I was paying interest on my credit card. How much would I have actually saved had I instead paid down our debt with that can of pumpkin, that extra bottle of cod liver oil, etc? And when I multiplied that reality times years of my life I realized I have been operating out of a poverty mentality which keeps me in debt. So I have decided to be done, and I would love for you to join me!

First, I would like to give you a task. When you have finished the task you will understand my above statements. Then, I would LOVE to hear from you about how much you were bale to pay down your debt by doing this! I will keep track as well. I have just begun the clearing out process.

  • Go look in your cupboards. Make a list of what they contain. Do the same for your pantry if you have one, your freezer and your fridge.
  • Now make a meal plan, and I mean keep going until there is no more. Now, obviously you might have olive oil, butter, oats etc. left over. The staples. But keep going until you run out of meals. And please, do yourself a favor and skip the eating out. If you have a restaurant budget that is separate from your general food budget add that to the equation as well.
  • Write down how many lunches, breakfasts and dinners you have found.
  • Write down your food budget for each week, and how many days or weeks you can do without grocery shopping based on what is in front of you. Do your math, and write down the money you now do not have to spend purchasing groceries.
  • Look at your highest interest debt, whether it is a credit card, mortgage or your car payment. Put your grocery budget that is now not needed to that high interest debt. Do it every week until you have to start buying groceries again. If you really want to do the mathematical thing, calculate how much interest you just saved by shifting your grocery budget to your debt. You will pay it down more quickly whether it is a one year debt or a 30 year debt



  1. April, this is a great reminder, and very true. I'm always amazed by how much we have sitting in the back of the pantry. With a little planning and creativity, you can get quite a few meals out of the extras! : )

  2. April, knowing that you try to feed your family with as much real food as possible, what is your typical food budget? We usually manage to stay out of debt, but have accumulated a bit of credit card debt over the past year, and are determined to get out of it as quickly as possible. I was thinking of tightening our belts, and eating a little less healthy than our norm for a few months until we get out. Funny thing, I just did this exact thing and meal planned based on what was in my cupboard this week. I still had to shop though for a few ingredients.I didn't have to fill out the meals, etc.